Innovation in Healthcare Requires New Technology Coupled with Strong Cultural Leadership

Steve Jourdan
Steve Jourdan

Guest post by Steve Jourdan, founder and CEO, BedWatch.

It’s a broken record – we need innovation in healthcare. Being the largest economy in the world by a significant margin, with a number of resources at our disposal, one would think that our ability to deliver healthcare services would also rank at or near the top. In fact, we don’t rank well at all. A Bloomberg ranking from last year finds the U.S. healthcare market ranked 46th in the world in terms of efficiency, with the second highest healthcare costs per capita reported[1].

But, innovation equals risk, and risk is a four letter word in healthcare, for good reason. Margins are thin, enforcement and compliance efforts related to HIPAA are increasing, and, ultimately patient care hangs in the balance at a time when reimbursement models are shifting from fee-for-service to being outcome-based. It makes perfect sense that healthcare organizations take a conservative approach to their business.

However, continuing to do the same thing will not move us forward. Private industry and even the federal government[2] are taking advantage of these advancements. Technology is here, but it needs to be embraced; current technologies need to be adopted by healthcare for the benefit of everyone.

If I can perform secure online banking and investing directly from my smart phone, provided by the highly-regulated financial industry, why do I have to wait to receive healthcare services because health workers are using the technological equivalent of a Big Chief Pad and no. 2 pencil?

There is great promise in current mobile and cloud computing technologies, in that they are more accessible, easier to use, more secure, more scalable and can enable people to be more effective. The technology advancements we need are already here.

That said, use of current technology is only half of the solution. The other half is the people side of the equation. A culture of improvement must be embraced by the organization from the top down in order for significant improvements to be realized.

Of course, as we all know, there is no silver bullet – no one tool that can fix everything for everyone. I’ve seen similar hospitals implement the same technology as one another and achieve very different results. The biggest factors that I’ve seen that determine the value gained out of a technology investment are the engagement of leadership and the hospital culture. It is imperative that we establish cultures of continuous improvement in our healthcare communities.

Hospital leaders must work to create environments where people feel comfortable to speak openly about problems – a culture where the messenger is never shot. In fact, in a positive professional culture, you would expect to see more potential issues reported than you would in a less positive culture. In positive, constructive cultures, people feel comfortable bringing up issues that need to addressed, and are motivated to find solutions.

Organization change is difficult because it means overcoming the existing organizational inertia. A strong executive leader needs to require change and have people experience a better set of results. Repeated success will lead to a different set of beliefs and values over time.

However, managing change cannot be done by edict. Strong leaders will manage change by setting clear goals, engaging all parties in development of strategy, and establishing objective measures of success.

It is the people at America’s hospitals that will make the difference, not just technology. Our job is to provide them with the leadership, technology tools and cultural environment necessary to drive effective change and ultimately improve healthcare delivery.

Interested in jump-starting an innovation program at your hospital? Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Provide Leadership – Get leadership buy-in and establish a top-down approach to innovation.
  2. Build a Positive Culture Dr. W. Edward Deming’s 14-point management philosophy is a great place to start[3].
  3. Provide Resources – Start an innovation committee with key members from a range of departments and levels of management, and a leader who reports directly to the chief executive or board.
  4. Set a Goal – Identify a specific, core issue or issues for the innovation committee to address (these should be re-evaluated regularly).
  5. Build a Specific Change Strategy – Create a plan of action to achieve the established goal or goals. It is critical to incorporate your key players in this process in order to ensure buy-in at every level.
  6. Execute, Measure & Refine – Execute your change strategy and measure results, then refine the strategy and measure again. Repeat the process until you arrive at a solution that works for your hospital.
  7. Don’t Fear Failure – Each failure is temporary and means that you are one step closer to success.

Some healthcare organizations are already embracing new technology and working to build cultures of positive change. These forward-thinkers will likely not only survive the changing healthcare marketplace, but will thrive; hospitals who do nothing will likely flounder. While there is certainly a cost to innovate (time, man-power, financial resources,) the cost not to innovate is much, much greater.

Steve Jourdan is founder and CEO of BedWatch, a suite of patient throughput technology tools designed to help hospitals better manage patient flow, break down communication silos, and improve operational efficiency. He also serves as CIO for BedWatch parent company HHS, a support services provider with nearly 40 years of experience in healthcare. He has several patents pending for the BedWatch technology products. For more information, visit www.BedWatch.com or contact Steve at steve@bedwatch.com.



[1] http://www.bloomberg.com/visual-data/best-and-worst/most-efficient-health-care-countries

[2] https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/digital-strategy/federal-cloud-computing-strategy.pdf

[3] http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newSTR_75.htm

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